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Minister welcomes plan for ombudsman merger

Pensions minister James Purnell has welcomed the Thornton review findings, including calls for the Financial Ombudsman Service and Pensions Ombudsman to merge.

Former Institute of Actuaries president Paul Thornton began his review in January. His report, published last week, proposes creating a pension jurisdiction within the FOS.

Thornton also calls for closer co-operation between the Pension Protection Fund and The Pensions Regulator and the bolstering of co-operation and co-ordination between the FSA and TPR, particularly for defined-contribution schemes.

Purnell says: “I would like to thank Paul Thornton for all his hard work. He has conducted the review with determination and focus, gaining plaudits from the institutions themselves and from wider stakeholders for his open and responsive approach.

“We intend to fully implement his proposals and are working with the institutions and stakeholders to develop practical proposals to ensure the framework continues to support current and future pensioners.”

But Association of British Insurers director general Stephen Haddrill warns against merging the two ombudsmen.

Haddrill says: “We agree The Pensions Regulator should be given responsibility for overseeing the Personal Accounts Board. This would help to ensure that there is a level regulatory playing field for personal accounts and the existing private pension market.

“However, we do not support proposals to merge the Pensions Ombudsman and the Financial Ombudsman Service. The two bodies have distinct remits and significant differences in their approach. Rather than merging, the two bodies should concentrate on improving the handling of their existing cases.”

TPR chief executive Tony Hobman says: “It is encouraging to see that the report concludes that the pension institutions are functioning successfully and that since our inception, alongside the Pension Protection Fund, we have moved fast and effectively to respond to our challenges.”

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